“We need people out of their cars, whether they are parents or not. People in London need to reduce driving massively and we need to make driving the least easy option. In order to prevent the health effects pollution is having on children, the elderly, and everyone else,” Jemima Hartshorn said passionately.
The Brixton mother of two is the founder of London group Mums for Lungs, which she started back in 2017 after realising how polluted her area was. She moved from Brixton, which was heavily polluted, to a quiet road in Herne Hill because of air pollution.
It was her motherly instinct to protect her child that made her and a couple other mothers start this group.
She said: “My son at the time was six or seven months and I was walking quite a lot – much more than I had done when I was still working – around Brixton, Camberwell. Those kinds of areas were very polluted, and I started realising this and I began reading about air pollution.
“It was one of those things that when you start reading about the negative affects it has on children and everybody, you want to do something about it. You see the kind of irreversible health affects that are contributed by air pollution. So I got really concerned and wanted to do something and that’s how Mums for Lungs got started.”
Mums for Lungs supports initiatives that better air pollution, like School Streets. School Streets was started by Hackney council to lower the air pollution levels around schools. They do this by preventing any vehicles from driving on school roads during school pick up and drop off times.
Hartshorn says that her group are raising awareness of School Streets and look for schools that are heavily polluted in London and see if the scheme would work for them. She said: “If it did, we contacted that school in order to really raise awareness that School Streets exist and that this is something that might be suitable. We try to encourage head teachers and parents to campaign for it and ask their local councils to implement the School Streets at their school.”
Speaking about the aspects as to why School Streets are important, she said: “It increases road safety, it really reduces the exposure of children to air pollution. Children are sort of clustered around school gates during drop off and pick up time. So, reducing air pollution at that time has an impact.”
Since School Streets started in Hackney schools, traffic outside the schools has reduced by two thirds and the number of children cycling to schools has increased by over 50 per cent.
Hartshorn added: “When it becomes inconvenient to drive to school, parents think of other ways of getting their children to school. When people see the sign about cars not being allowed to drive in there during certain times, it raises awareness.”
Her future plans for Mums for Lungs is for the School Streets campaign to continue for all of 2019 and “depending on government proposal for environmental and clean air legislation, campaigning on that”.